Choreographer Eleesha Drennan: Listen to your own body – everyone's different

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Co Antrim-born, award-winning London-based choreographer, Eleesha Drennan

Choreographer Eleesha Drennan who has choreographed dance troupe Maiden Voyage Dance's current production, Pause and Effect, which is on stage at the Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey, tomorrow

1. Up and at it – what is your morning routine ?

My alarm goes off somewhere between 6am and 7am, but I love the snooze button. I get some of my best creative thinking done in that window of time between waking up and getting up. Sometimes, it’s the pure joy of rebellion that keeps me stealing another minute under the duvet. Once I’m up, I do some stretches to get the kinks out and get the coffee brewing pretty quickly. My husband is more of a morning person and usually helps me find my sense of humour before leaving the house. He’s either singing loudly in the shower or has a silly thought to share. A good giggle to start the day, along with a nice strong coffee, and I’m ready to carpe the diem.

2. What might you eat in a typical working day for...

Breakfast? Juice, fruit, granola, coffee.

Lunch? I’m all about salads for lunch. They have to be tasty though. Let’s be honest – who likes a dry salad ? I like a flavoursome vinaigrette or something on it. I also might have cous cous with it if I am working from home or sometimes I’ll just have leftovers.

Evening meal? It varies. I’m often on the go and living in London, so you’re spoiled for options. My husband and I both like to get creative in the kitchen at home, cooking all from scratch, trying new spices and unusual flavours. My husband also makes a mean pizza sauce, but that’s a weekend project. Roasted vegetables with curried lentils is a staple and I’m a big [Israeli-English chef Yotam] Ottolenghi fan so I use his recipes a lot when I have time.

3. Is nutrition important to you?

Yes, I’ve always just eaten healthy out of habit. I’ve tried veganism in the past but find if you're being too strict when travelling, you can sacrifice good health and the pleasure of eating. I don’t obsess over it at all now, but I make sure I get a good balance.

4. Best meal ever?

I had the most amazing Thai Green Curry while travelling in Brazil once. Everything was so fresh, it was an unforgettable experience of flavours. I also really love a good Indian curry.

5. Do you have a guilty pleasure ?

I enjoy a bowl of onion rings or chips at the pub once in a while. But only if I’m sharing with my husband or a friend as that's part of the pleasure.

6. Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

I don’t believe in diets. I have tried ‘detox sessions ’ where you drink weird teas and

get full of headaches but I don’t really see the point. Life’s too sort to deprive yourself of the food you enjoy eating, if one is lucky enough to have that choice. I do believe in moderation and having plenty of fruit and vegetables as a staple.

7. Do you take health supplements?

I take a multi-vitamin sometimes when I remember. I’m all about getting nutrition from actual food, but if I get run down, than I’ll take a vitamin boost. In the winter time I always have manuka honey at hand.

8. How do you relax?

Walking in nature always soothes me. Sometimes I’ll take a hot bath to unwind if I’m feeling particularly stressed.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

Tipple. I love a good cheers and a glass of wine with supper.

10. Stairs or lift?

Depends on how many floors and how much time I have. If I take the stairs, I usually go for two at a time and peg it. I can’t stand a long, slow climb.

11. Do you have a daily exercise regime?

It varies daily, but I always do something active. It’s either a dance class, swimming, yoga or running, depending on the day.

12. Best tip for everyday fitness?

Do 20 calf raises while brushing your teeth and make sure you’re always running about five-10 minutes behind schedule so you have to run for it.

13. On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit would you like to be?

Currently, I'm about a seven compared to my own personal best. My fitness goes up and down depending on my work schedule, but I aim to keep as fit as possible. An active body helps keep an active mind.

14. Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?

Yes, acupuncture and massage are my saviours when it comes to muscle strains, of which I've had many in my career. I find sports massage a great injury prevention which has helped keep me dancing.

15. Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?

I enjoyed sports in school a lot. I was quite competitive as a kid and would try anything going, including soccer.

16. Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

I did while travelling through Europe as a determined vegan, living off trail mix and veggie pate while resisting the smells of freshly baked croissants and local cheeses. I was missing out on so much and I started to wonder if it was really worth it. Since then I enjoy the social and cultural aspects of food more and that makes me happier.

17. Best health/lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

Break a sweat every day.

18. Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness / attitude to life?

I don’t try to follow anyone else’s health regime. I listen to my own body. Everyone is different.

19. What time do you normally get to bed and do you get enough sleep?

I love sleep. I find it difficult to get enough of it, to be honest. I’m a night owl by nature. so I often stay up until about midnight, although I aim to get to bed by 11pm during the week.

20. Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

Not particularly. I’m pretty keen to stay alive. I’m more afraid of losing people I love than I am of my own death, though.

:: Eleesha Drennan has choreographed Maiden Voyage Dance's current production, Pause and Effect, which has been running at various venues in Northern Ireland this month and takes to the stage at the Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey tomorrow, October 19.

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